What Are My Rights if I Get Coronavirus and Cannot Work?

By Greg Kohn

COVID-19 can strike without warning. A person can feel healthy one day and suddenly become sick. If his job is an essential service, he will not be allowed to continue working until he gets medical clearance to return to the job. If he works from home, he might feel too ill to work for several weeks. 

With no paycheck coming in, the bills can stack up quickly. Many people are claiming that their employers recklessly exposed their workers to the risk of catching this Coronavirus by: 

  • Failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)  
  • Neglecting to take other measures, like limiting the number of people who can shop at one time and requiring physical separation of at least 6 feet between people.

A New York personal injury attorney can explain your rights and help you determine whether you might be eligible for compensation.

An Overview of Your Legal Rights During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Depending on your situation, you might receive a stimulus check from the federal government. As of April of 2020, eligible individuals can receive up to $1,200 each and $500 for each qualifying minor child. 

Some employers provide short-term disability benefits either through a third-party company or through self-insurance. If your workplace offers this coverage, it might give you partial income for a limited time.

You might be able to seek compensation if your employer was negligent without excuse, and you contracted COVID-19 as a result. The standard elements of liability will apply to this situation.

Also, New Yorkers have employment protections. The New York Attorney General offers information on the rights of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, including these topics:

  • Your employer should not try to force you to go to work during Governor Cuomo’s stay at home order unless you are on the list of essential businesses and services. Even if your job is on that list, your boss has to utilize telecommuting of work from home strategies to the maximum extent possible. If your job involves both essential and non-essential services, your boss can only require people to come to work for business operations needed to support the essential services.
  • If you have a positive diagnosis of or show symptoms of COVID-19, you fall under the protection of new state and federal emergency sick and family leave laws. Also, people who are caring for children whose schools are not in session because of the pandemic get these protections, as do people who are caring for someone with COVID-19 or are quarantined for COVID-19.
  • If you get laid off or furloughed because of COVID-19, you can file for unemployment benefits. If eligible, you could receive up to $504 a week for up to 26 weeks. You should apply immediately after getting laid off or furloughed because the high volume of claims means longer processing times.
  • If you catch COVID-19 on the job, you might be able to get workers’ compensation benefits. Typically, qualified individuals can receive two-thirds of their average weekly pay up to $934.11 a week, during treatment and recovery time.

The New York Attorney General states that your employer has a duty to maintain a safe workplace and keep employees safe on the job. You might have an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) complaint if there are health or safety violations at your workplace.

Contact us today to talk to a New York personal injury attorney about your rights to a safe workplace and compensation.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.